A good soil management program has the following goals: to preserve the soil from water and wind erosion, to
control weeds and create a good seedbed for planting, to control and fracture
hardpans or compacted layers that may limit root development and to maintain,
protect and/or increase soil organic matter.
Water erosion is a significant problem on all soil types that have been
tilled and have no cover crops during the high rainfall months. Wind erosion
can be a problem on sandy Coastal Plain soils in early spring when blowing sand
can severely injure young corn plants. Crop residue left on the soil surface or
a cover crop effectively reduces water and wind erosion problems. The use of minimum-till
practices (i.e. vertical tillage) is recommended only after proper disking, levelling, and at least 1 year of
a cover-crop and/or 1 year of a field crop.
Strip-tilling into a previous crop residue or cover crop is effective as
long as the seedbed is not rutted from the previous harvesting operation or
washed out by heavy rains. This practice is recommended only after 1 or 2 crops
following a conversion from citrus.
It is important that cover-crops are killed several weeks ahead of
planting to reduce competition from the cover crop and to reduce cutworm and
southern corn rootworm damage to young corn seedlings. Insects are seldom a
severe problem if cover crops have been killed 3-4 weeks prior to planting.
Water and drainage are usually the main limiting factors of corn
production in Florida. Compaction layers occur naturally on Spodosols and
Entisols of Southern Florida soils (i.e. Riviera, Wabasso, Winder & Pineda Sand).
These compacted layers restricts root
growth, drainage and water/nutrient uptake by the plant and should be disrupted
by chisel plowing or by using an in-row subsoiler at planting. According to
University of Florida studies, in-row subsoiling has increased corn yields over
50%. In our Top Trial™ study (Spring 2017), removing soil compaction with
ripping prior planting has increased corn yield by 26%KT1 .
Subsoiling enables corn to develop deeper root systems that make better
use of subsoil moisture and improves the chances of recovering nutrients as
they move through the soil. Corn generally grows best in deep, well drained
soils, although good yields have been obtained on a wide variety of soil types
with irrigation. Land preparation to warm up soils is not necessary for corn,
since corn is not as sensitive to cold soils as many crops.
and bedding equipment
It is our opinion that raised beds would improve corn
yields in Florida. In the Mississippi Delta
region, growers typically try to build beds in the fall and plant on them the
following spring. On lighter soils like
of those in Florida, beds often erode during the winter and must be refreshed
or rebuilt in the spring. Bed erosion
could be problem in Florida and it is suggested to bed the ground just prior to
planting. The following is a discussion about the implements that would work
well in Florida.
The hipper roller (Figure 1) is one of the most
popular tools for building raised beds on light to medium textured soils. They are popular because the bed can be
pulled/refreshed and flattened out in one pass, just prior to planting.
Mega Till-type implements (Figure 2) are gaining in
popularity because beds can be ripped and pulled in one pass. Since only the row is ripped, the row middles
stay firm reducing problems associated conventional ripping methods.
In Florida, it is suggested to pull new beds with the
Mega Till and using a hipper roller just ahead of planting.
Lister bedders (Figure 3) are very popular throughout
the Mississippi Delta because they are fast and easy to maintain. They are easily adjusted and can be used to
build big beds or just to cultivate.
This type of bedder would work very well in Florida.
report we published for 2017 shows a 33% increase, on average.